Congratulations to long term Banstead TaeKwon-Do student, Mr Matt Thomas, who has achieved his 1st Degree Blackbelt in ITF TaeKwon-Do.
An ITF TaeKwon-Do Blackbelt is not so easy to achieve, like anything that’s ‘worth it’, it’s ‘worth working for’.
I am sure that reaching 1st Degree, an internationally recognised standard of skills and knowledge, takes much more effort that at first people realise. It certainly did for me, and that’s the thing about Martial Arts training, it takes a lot of effort, time, perseverance, dedication and sacrifice. If students continue to work hard and overcome certain individual physical or mental hardships it is likely they will be offered the chance to grade for 1st Degree Blackbelt.
Martial Arts training is a lot like many other activities in that it is only with hard work and dedication that a high level of skill and expertise will be achieved and even with the most talented people there is always something that needs improving, and it’s that willingness to accept constructive criticism and resolve to improve things that sets apart the potential Blackbelt student from those that decide not to continue with training when they hit that big mountain they think they can not conquer.
I would say that most people start martial arts training with no previous knowledge of the subject, some students have some knowledge, few people have a lot and fewer still are Blackbelts in another Martial Art. However, our first home grown Blackbelt from Banstead TaeKwon-Do does in fact hold a Blackbelt from Karate – however, apart from being in good physical shape this did not give Matt any technical advantages when entering TaeKwon-Do, most likely quite the opposite.
The finishing positions of many TaeKwon-Do and Karate techniques might look similar but the method of getting to the finishing position is different and that difference is important to us in TaeKwon-Do. So, for Matt, the technical basics required a lot of work, time and dedication so that the movements started to look like TaeKwon-Do, whereas for a students new to martial arts they would not have the unlearning to do first.
Matt started attending Banstead TaeKwon-Do in October 2009, just about one month after the club started, so he really is one of the original members (only one other I think has been with us since the beginning) and in the ‘nearly 5 years’ until now he has hardly ever missed a class, helped with all demonstrations, taken part in competitions, won medals, helped with teaching and has become a very helpful assistant and an integral part of the club. The club has certainly benefited from his commitment.
Matt’s journey through to 1st Degree has not been easy, he has always trained hard putting in 100% effort (most of the time), being a good example for more junior students to follow, he has struggled with minor injuries (not sustained in TKD) but trained around them and worked through other physical difficulties to finally be given the opportunity to grade for 1st Degree.
Without going in to particular detail of his actual testing day, I am completely satisfied that he was exposed to a hard test of all the elements of TaeKwon-Do which showed off his skills and highlighted some areas for improvement for when he comes to sit his 2nd Degree grading. The grading ended with a very convincing example of the power of TaeKwon-Do techniques and a lot of theory from the panel of examiners who were Master Russell Dennis (7th Degree), Mr Steven Elliot (4th Degree) and myself Mr James Davis (4th Degree).
I am very happy to announce then that Mr Matt Thomas is now a 1st Degree Blackbelt in ITF TaeKwon-Do, is promoted to Assistant Instructor in Banstead TaeKwon-Do and should be respectfully addressed as Mr Thomas or Sir 😉
Please have a look at this selection of photos from the last 5 years, which serves another purpose: you see people in these photos who have decided they’d rather do something other than working hard for an internationally recongised Martial Arts award. Stick with the training and you will achieve your goals.
Congratulations to Matt and I hope that 2014 and 2015 will bring more Blackbelts from Banstead TaeKwon-Do